On the invitation of YMCA Singapore, Raleigh Singapore undertook a community project to build a community center in a Shan village in Myanmar, in 1999. This project, led by Dr Chan Yew Wing, was in partnership and a collaborative effort with YMCA Yangon.
With the aim to add a new dimension to Raleigh Singapore’s expeditions and create an overseas learning experience for disadvantaged youths, selected youths from Ramakrishna Home, Boys Town and SCAS were invited to join the expedition. For the first time, Raleigh Singapore expedition saw youths from privileged backgrounds working alongside the disadvantaged ones. This initiative also set the practice to include disadvantage youths in all future Raleigh expeditions.
As with all expeditions, Operation Mingalaba, faced its own set of organising challenges at every stage. The most daunting one was the sudden decision by the local authorities to deny us permission to proceed with the original plan of working in the Shan village. The abrupt change of project site just days before the arrival of phase 1 in Myanmar sent the advance team into a frenzy as they scrambled, with the help of local partners, to get Plan B into action by the time volunteers set foot in Myanmar.
A month and two expedition phases later, the combined effort of 100 youths with the local workers saw the transformation of a patch of bare land into a community center for the local villagers in North Okkalapa, which is located within Yangon, the then capital of Myanmar. While North Okkalapa may not be the original site for the project, the objective of building a community center where the locals can gather and learn new skills such as English through free English lessons not only did not changed but was achieved with the great volunteerism spirit of the participants.